The Army is in the midst of its fourth competition to bring in small and nontraditional businesses with beneficial technologies to the service that may not work with the government in other circumstances.

The Army’s acquisition office set up xTechSearch in 2018.

“We are looking for ways we can make it really easy for small businesses to pitch new ideas to the government,” Matt Willis, director for laboratory management in the Army’s acquisition, logistics and technology office, told Federal News Network. “We can’t possibly know the spectrum of technologies that are out there.”

The competition is set up in the pitch day fashion used by the Air Force. Businesses meet with government officials and explain their ideas. xTechSearch is different in that it doesn’t put companies on contract right away, but rather takes them through phases. It’s almost like a mini acquisition cycle: companies submit white papers in the first phase.

“We have a panel of Army experts from the labs and from the program executive office and from the acquisition office review these white papers and then we downselect to about 50 or so companies,” Willis said.

The Army separates the companies into bins based on topics like soldier lethality, medical technology and air and missile defense.

Each company chosen to move on gets a $5,000 prize to make up for costs of engaging with the government and to help mature their technology.

Click to read more on the xTechSearch and pitch days